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The Harlem Renaissance A Brief History with Documents



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Bedford/St. Martin's
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The Harlem Renaissance the unprecedented artistic outpouring centered in 1920s and 1930s Harlem comes down to us today, says Jeffrey B. Ferguson, as a braiding of history, memory, and myth. To analyze the movement's contents and meaning, Ferguson presents its signature works and lesser known pieces in a framework that allows students to examine the issues its writers and artists faced. Political theorists and civil rights activists, as well as poets, artists, musicians, and novelists, explore the character of the so-called New Negro, the influence of African and Southern heritage, the implications of skin color and race and gender, and the question of whether black artistic expression should be directed toward the black freedom struggle. Ferguson's thought-provoking introduction provides the broad background for the Harlem Renaissance and a frank assessment of its significance. A glossary of key individuals and journals, document headnotes and annotations, a chronology, questions for consideration, and a selected bibliography help students understand the context of this artistic outpouring and investigate its themes.

Author Biography

JEFFREY B. FERGUSON (Ph.D., Harvard University) is Assistant Professor of Black Studies and American Studies at Amherst College in Massachusetts, where he teaches a course in the Harlem Renaissance. He is the author of The Sage of Sugar Hill: George S. Schuyler, Satire, and the Harlem Renaissance (2005). His 1998 dissertation on the African American journalist George S. Schuyler was awarded the Helen Choate Bell Prize. He has been a fellow at the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents



List of Illustrations


Introduction: The Harlem Renaissance as History, Memory, and Myth

The New Negro

Harlem Real and Imagined

Beginnings of the Harlem Renaissance

Themes in Black Identity

Controversies over Art and Politics

The Harlem Renaissance: Vogue or Watershed?

Major Harlem Renaissance Figures and Publications


The Documents

Background and Beginnings

1. W.E.B. Du Bois, Returning Soldiers, May 1919

2. A. Philip Randolph and Chandler Owen, The New Negro — What Is He? August 1920

3. Marcus Garvey, Speech to the Second International Convention of Negroes, August 14, 1921

4. James Weldon Johnson, Black Manhattan, 1930

5. Helene Johnson, Sonnet to a Negro in Harlem, 1927

6. Claude McKay, Harlem Shadows and The Liberator, 1922

The Harlem Dancer

Harlem Shadows

If We Must Die


The White House

7. Jean Toomer, Cane, 1923



November Cotton Flower


8. Countee Cullen, Color, 1925, and Copper Sun, 1927

To John Keats, Poet. At Spring Time

Yet Do I Marvel

From the Dark Tower

Harlem Wine

9. Langston Hughes, The Weary Blues, 1926

The Negro Speaks of Rivers

The Weary Blues

Dream Variation

Harlem Nightclub

Epilogue: I, Too, Sing America

10. Opportunity, The Debut of the Younger School of Negro Writers, including Gwendolyn Bennett, To Usward, May 1924

11. Alain Locke, Editor, The Survey Graphic, Harlem Issue, March 1925

Winold Reiss, cover

Alain Locke, Harlem

12. Alain Locke, ed., The New Negro, 1925

2. Themes in Black Identity

13. Claude McKay, A Long Way from Home, 1937

14. Langston Hughes, Fine Clothes to the Jew, 1927

Jazz Band in a Parisian Cabaret Song for a Dark Girl

15. Countée Cullen, Hentage, 1925

16. Gwendolyn Bennett, Heritage, 1923

17. Richard Bruce Nugent, Sahdji, 1925

Aaron Douglas, illustration

18. Zora Neale Hurston, Mules and Men, 1935

19. Sterling Brown, Southern Road, 1932

Odyssey of Big Boy

Southern Road

Ma Rainey

Strong Men

20. Ma Rainey, See See Rider, 1924

21. Bessie Smith, Young Woman’s Blues, 1926

22. Joel A. Rogers, Jazz at Home, 1925

23. Nella Larsen, Passing, 1929

24. Jessie Fauset, Plum Bun, 1929

25. Nella Larsen, Quicksand, 1928

26. Georgia Douglass Johnson, The Heart of a Woman, 1918

27. Anne Spencer, Lady, Lady, 1925, and Letter to My Sister,1928

3. Controversies in Art and Politics

28. George S. Schuyler, The Negro Art-Hokum, 1926

29. Langston Hughes, The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain, 1926

30. Wallace Thurman, Editor, Fire!!, 1926

Aaron Douglas, Cover Art

Wallace Thurman, Cordelia the Crude

31. W.E.B. Du Bois, Criteria of Negro Art, 1926

32. Alain Locke, Art or Propaganda, 1928

33. Richard Wright, Blueprint for Negro Writing, 1937

34. Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God, 1937

35. Alain Locke, The Negro: "New" or "Newer"?


A Brief Chronology of the Harlem Renaissance (1914–1939)

Questions for Consideration

Selected Bibliography


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